Thursday, December 29, 2011

Amanda Raeanne Heinsch - the formative years

So a bit about the aforementioned Heinsch family video Christmas present ..

There is a side of me that wants to burn the video. Burn it so that the world may never know what I was like in my 13th year. Burn it so that no one can see my ungraceful and awkward transition from childhood to young womanhood. Burn it so that humanity can be spared raw footage of my acne and wretched fashion sense.

You see, homeschooling allowed me to miss out on any public documentation of my beastly transformation. I have no school photos, no yearbooks, no school plays or choir performances recorded on videotapes. Nothing...except this.

Sure, there are a few family photographs, but those can easily be dismissed. I mean who doesn't look bad in a photo or two (or three or fourteen)? But when you have a living, breathing, moving representation of who you were in the midst of puberty, well there's just no forgiveness. The video camera doesn't lie.

So with no further adieu, here are 15 observations on my life from 1996 to 2002:

1) When I get to heaven, I need to thank God that cheeks thin out as one ages
3) Gah! So tall at such a young age!
4) Dear Mandi - why don't you wear shirts that fit? Sincerely, Stacy and Clinton
5) Ugh, my facial features are being eaten BY MY OWN FACE.
6) I had better softball form than I remember...still, the glasses that take up half my already-large face are unforgivable. My high socks are awesome, though.
7) Yep, there I am. Left field. Probably batting 8th. It wasn't that I totally sucked...I was just going through this funk with my swing...oh, and I was afraid of sliding and getting dirty.
8) And BIG SIGH OF RELIEF. We cut to high school graduation and I'm actually starting to pull it together. 9) I open my mouth WAY too much when I laugh.
10) Hey, my makeup was really nice on grad day! And my hair very acceptable. I think I'm very datable!
11) Ugh there's the girl who got the solo that I wanted. *crosses arms*
12) I graduated with high honors! I forgot about that...funny how everything you do in high school means nothing down the road.
13) And there I am walking down the graduation aisle with the tallest boy in class. I remember feeling weird about that...but it turns out it looked ok. And at least I got to walk with a boy, am I right??
14) My close HS friends are all in this!
15) And then we cut to Ryan's basketball game. Note to self: when filming future sporting events, do NOT tape the whole thing.

And there you have it. Adolescence in a nutshell...and the joy of growing into your own.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

28 years old, despite my best efforts

Well I did it. I outlived Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and most recently, Amy Winehouse. The 27 club is no longer a threat. Yay me!

It wasn't easy saying no to all those drugs and late-night partying. But I did...and I lived. Despite my very edgy and death-inviting lifestyle, of course. There were the times I operated a moving vehicle while suddenly being overcome by a blinding migraine. Times I didn't clear all of the snow and frost off of the car windows and decided to take it out for a spin anyway. The times I pet strange and possibly violent dogs. The time I used Craigslist to find and rent a house. The time I considered renting a particular house that ended up being on the very block of a double homicide/suicide just days later. The times I drank hormone-infused milk and ate non-organic potato chips. The time my friends Michaela, Beth and her husband Mark had dinner at a tavern nestled in the Rockies and spent the whole time laughing loudly and unashamedly at the drunk people. (We probably should have at least gotten beat up for that or something...isn't that how bars in mountainous regions work?).

Yep, I did all this and lived to blog about it. But I'd say the one thing that really threatened to give me permanent 27 club status, was the restrung right-handed guitar I played in high school.

I'm a leftie. Have been all my life. I'm also a music enthusiast. Have been for a good chunk of my life. Somewhere around my 14th year, I was gifted a right-handed Yamaha. We made it work by restringing it and the rest is history. It's what I used to learn all of my mad guitar skills.

Now despite how embarrassing it was to have this "wrong" guitar (I was clearly unaware of its cool factor), I took it out in public, performing in churches and at coffeehouses in the area. And it stayed with me for about four years, until my grandma gave me enough graduation money to buy a left-handed Ibanez.

For all of you struggling to find the point to all this, Cobain was known for his backwards-strung acoustic. Hendrix, for his backwards-strung Stratocaster. And they both died in their 27th year.

Me? I lived! I made it! And I'd like to believe that it was because I bought that Ibanez in the nick of time...
That, and I never became a drugged up rock star.

One of the two.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

why I could never run for president

In my line of work as a literary agent, I attend writers conferences throughout the year. At many of these conferences, they have these things called panels in which experts in the business sit up front facing the audience and answer questions.

Now I’ve participated in a number of these panels, and they always remind me of presidential debates. I’m not sure exactly why. We never really get into any tiffs up there on stage. There’s occasionally a disagreement or two among professionals but for the most part we respect opinions and try not to make each other sound dumb. So maybe it’s the lights? Or the microphones? Or the use of a moderator? Or the fact that there can be 100+ faces staring back at us, expecting us to say something brilliant and inspiring and insightful?

So anyway, this past September I was on an agent panel at ACFW. Now this is the big gathering for Christian fiction with about 600+ in attendance, including new and published authors, big-time editors, publishing house marketing people and more. So I guess you could say of all the agent panels that I participate in over the course of the year, this is the big one. The one that’s most like a presidential debate.

Well this particular year, someone must have slipped something into my drink. Or perhaps a fellow agent paid off another agent to subliminally fill my mind with ridiculous and useless analogies. Because in the middle of the panel, in the middle of answering a question, I somehow found a way to fit the word “cannibal” into my response.

Moderator: What productivity level do you expect from your clients? Is there a number of books per year that you’re looking for from a client?

(Laughter away from the microphone as Agent Steve Laube says he looks for 12 books per year from each author).

Me (in all seriousness): Every client is different. Now if you take a hiatus... If you decide “I’m going to go visit the...uh...cannibal people” or whatever. We don’t like that.

(Tons of laughter. The sound recording fails to capture the many baffled looks I get from my colleagues).

Me: I was reaching! I was really reaching.


It’s pretty safe to say that never in the history of ACFW panels had the word “cannibal” been used without associating it with martyrdom. But I used it! And not only did I use it, but I acknowledged that I used it! And everyone laughed. And I’m pretty sure someone tweeted about it later.

So this is why I could never run for president. Because all of my good ideas will be buried by all of the crazy that comes out of my mouth.

And instead of being the candidate with the great plan for world peace or civil liberty or flat tax, I’d be The Cannibal Candidate (or better yet, Amanable the Cannibal) whose deep dark secrets include eating lots of meat (never free range), researching the Donner party in high school and being momentarily obsessed with PBS’s Northwest Passage specials in 2006/07 (in which cannibalism was an outcome).

Do I have your vote?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

what to do if...

Tad and I like to have game plans for tough situations. I think this all started after watching too many seasons of House. We’d see a fictionalized couple go through a horrific situation, and then we’d talk about it. Thanks to House, Tad knows whether to save my life or the baby’s (no, this is not hinting at anything) and we both know when to pull the plug.

But the other day, we were watching The Walking Dead, and I realized there was a topic that we’d yet to cover.



“If I turn into a zombie, I want you to just kill me.”




“I’m serious.”


“Don’t forget.”

Sigh. “Ok.”

Still not sure on what to do if he became a zombie. But I’m thinking he doesn’t want me pressing the issue.

Monday, December 19, 2011

family archiver

It’s official. I’m the Archiver of the family. You know, that person who insists on family photos and preserving stories and digitalizing film and uncovering deep, dark secrets. That’s me. I’m not as aggressive as most, and to be honest, scrapbooking has zero appeal, but still. I’m the one who cares about where I came from. And about keeping that history alive.

It all started last year, when I decided to give my parents and siblings DVD copies of our Family Video. The video was on some ancient c. 1982 VHS tape, and time and use had taken its toll. As our family continued to grow and spread out over the midwest (I have a sister and brother in Minneapolis, a brother in Detroit, and parents in the Chicagoland), I started to panic. Who would preserve the memories?! Who would protect them from being lost or damaged?!

The easy solution was “me!” and so for Christmas last year, I had our super old VHS transferred to DVD. And somewhere in the process I even let the scrapbooking bug bite me, and I got crafty with the cases. 

But archiving is a slippery slope.

Sometime mid-year, I began to think long and hard about my heritage. My dad’s side includes some German lineage, but the Scandinavian ties were always the strongest. My dad and Nana and aunts and uncles would talk about eating lutefisk and blood klub (or something of the sort), while we feasted on Swedish pancakes and pickled herring. They’d talk about my great-grandfather Karl Johnson (originally Johansson, according to, who came over from Sweden and married a Minnesota Swede named Hulda.

The more I thought, the more I wanted to learn. And so I found myself on, researching all I could late into the night for days on end until I came across a family tree that linked my family all the way back to 1744 Sweden.

1744! Just a few hundred more years, and I’d be able to prove that Thor was my next door neighbor or something like that.

And so it continues. I’m slowly taking on the role of photo-keeper and digitizer, document hoarder and memory saver. Eventually, I imagine I’ll grow a long, white beard and smoke a pipe while my children’s children’s children seek me out for answers to questions such as:

“Why am I so tight-lipped?”
“Where do I get my blue eyes?”
“Who do I look like most?”
“Why can I be so emotionless?”
“Where do I get my knack for building things?”
“Has our family always driven so fast?”

And so this is my future. The future of an Archiver. Maybe one day I’ll take a trip and visit that small Swedish settlement in which my ancestor was born in 1744. I suppose that’s one benefit to this task.

That, and it gives people with no hometown a sense of belonging.

Friday, December 16, 2011


For the longest time, the “hometown” field on my Facebook profile was blank. I had absolutely nothing to put in it. Because I am hometownless.

Growing up, we moved every 1.5 to 2 years. So much so that by the time I was in my sophomore year of high school, we were moving into what was at least our 11th residency.

Four of those residencies were in the Chicagoland area.
Three were within Peoria, Illinois (yes, mom, I’m counting the time we lived in a barn).
One was in Minnesota.
One was in Iowa.
The rest were in Illinois.

(Thank goodness my parents never followed through on their desire for us to travel the country in an RV, otherwise I’d have an even bigger conundrum).

So when I was first creating my Facebook profile sometime back in college and it came time to enter a hometown, I panicked. What should I put? Where was I from? I didn’t know, so I left it blank.

Living in Fort Wayne, Indiana for the past 9 years (yikes), this hasn’t really been an issue. People ask where I’m from and I just say Illinois. Their silly minds immediately think I’m from Chicago, which is fine by me. I mean I did spend the majority of my childhood in the suburbs and to be honest, I like them thinking that I’m a big city girl. But for the few who press me further, I end up blurting something like “Everywhere! I’m from the entire state of Illinois.”

And then I feel foolish.

So to remedy this problem, my mom encouraged me to just pick somewhere. Pick a town that I feel most connected of which I have the most memories, or one that I think of fondly...and have that be my hometown. So that’s what I did. I picked Des Plaines, Illinois and slapped it up on my Facebook page with pride. And no one called me out. No one questioned its validity. No one even noticed. Win-win if you ask me.

But then the other day Tad asked me the very morbid question of if I were to die, where should he bury me?

And I said Illinois (though I realize I should have said “wherever YOU want us to be buried, love of my life”).

And he said where in Illinois?

And I said I don’t know. Just somewhere by Chicago.
And he said like your grandma’s place or a place where you grew up or...?

And I thought and thought and threw out half-hearted suggestion after half-hearted suggestion before saying oh goodness, I don’t care. Just pick a place. Any place in Illinois and it’ll be fine.

And now instead of worrying about what my hometown is, I’m worrying about what my deathtown should be.

Not a good trade.